Non-Christians likely don't care much about this point one way or the other. But for the Christian, this is a vital issue. One of the strongest warnings Jesus issues is to those who "lead little ones astray." He said it would be better for that person if a millstone were put around his neck and he were cast into the sea. The validation of the false religion of Mormonism would almost certainly have the effect of leading many astray. Evangelical Christians should have no part of that effort.

Unfit to Serve?

No person is perfect. That's a theological reality. No candidate perfectly represents the people, or even his core constituency. That's a political reality. There's a lot about Romney I like. He seems to be a competent manager, he's a fiscal conservative, and his positions on some social issues—while problematic in the past—seem to have genuinely changed.

But certain qualifications make a candidate unfit to serve. I believe a candidate who either by intent or effect promotes a false and dangerous religion is unfit to serve. Mitt Romney has said it is not his intent to promote Mormonism. Yet there can be little doubt that the effect of his candidacy—whether or not this is his intent—will be to promote Mormonism. A Romney presidency would have the effect of actively promoting a false religion in the world. If you have any regard for the Gospel of Christ, you should care. A false religion should not prosper with the support of Christians. The salvation of souls is at stake.

For me, that alone disqualifies him from my vote. Because Mormons believe in continuing revelation, it is possible that in the future the LDS church will renounce its heretical beliefs and come fully into the fold of orthodox Christianity. Many theologians and church historians believe the church is on such a trajectory. But if that happens, it is an event still well in the future. The Mormon Church of today is, by the lights of biblical evangelical Christianity, a false religion. If Mitt Romney believes what the Mormon Church teaches about the world and how it operates, then he is unfit to serve. We make him our President at great peril to the intellectual and spiritual health of our nation.

Update - June 9, 2011: To read an interview with Warren Cole Smith in which he responds to criticism of this article, please click here.

For other perspectives on Romney from the symposium, see J. E. Dyer's "Yes, Christians Can Vote for Mormons," and Jeremy Lott's "In Defense of Mormons."

Other responses to Warren Smith's Essay

  1. Dave Banack, “Evangelical Incivility” (Times and Seasons)
  2. Joanna Brooks, “A Conversation with Warren Smith” (Religion Dispatches)
  3. Tim Dalrymple, “Is It Bigotry to Oppose a Candidate on Religious Grounds?” Romney and Evangelicals (Part I);  “Would a Romney Presidency Fuel the Growth of Mormonism?” (Part II) (Patheos)
  4. John Fowles, “Where Does It End? The Real Danger in Warren Smith’s Perspective” (By Common Consent)
  5. David French, “A Mormon President: Are Souls at Stake?” (Patheos)
  6. Mark Joseph, “Finally: An Honest Evangelical Weighs In on Romney and the Mormon Question” (Huffington Post)
  7. Michael Otterson, “Evangelicals, Mormons and the Beliefs of the President” (Washington Post)
  8. Jana Riess, “When Theological Disagreement Spills Over Into Anti-Mormonism” (Beliefnet)
  9. Tim Rutten, "A Religious 'Test' for Mitt Romney" (L.A. Times)
  10. Melissa Wei-Tsing Inouye, "I Believe": Mitt Romney and Why Mormon Beliefs Don't Matter